First things first – pat yourself on the back. If you’re even considering traveling with a baby, you deserve it. Secondly, know that getting all the baby stuff to a secondary location and surviving the flight is possible. You can do this! Here’s some wisdom that might make it seem a little more feasible.
Free Your Hands
This is my number one tip for parents traveling with their kiddo and it’s especially important if you’re traveling alone. If you can, check everything but the diaper bag. Stroller, luggage, crib, etc. Put the baby in a carrier and be on your way. Baby gear can almost always be checked for free.
Traveling this way will allow you to ride escalators instead of cramming a stroller into a loaded elevator and you can evade extra screening at security (also for the stroller). It’ll also save you from figuring out how to break down the stroller at the gate while holding a baby or having to simultaneously lift a carry-on into overhead bin space with a sleeping baby in a carrier.
If you’re traveling with another adult, divide and conquer. Designate one person to keep track of all of the luggage and baby gear and the other person to take care of the kids. This is especially helpful at security when kids need help getting shoes and jackets off while another person needs to be getting everything put into bins and taking out laptops and tablets. The same system is helpful at the gate – one person gets the kids to their seats, the other breaks down the stroller and puts the luggage in overhead compartments.
Ask for Help
“Hi, I’m so sorry to bother you, my hands are little full. Would you mind…” Followed by a fountain of “Thank you!” gets you just about anywhere.
Allow others to help you. I’ve had random people carry luggage, fasten the back of my baby carrier, watch that my baby doesn’t roll off the seat while I get all our stuff, once I even had someone help me take six pieces of luggage from baggage claim to passenger pick-up because I physically couldn’t carry it all. I’ve never once been told no or even had someone seem the slightest annoyed. Just be smart about who you pick – avoid anyone that seems like they’re in a hurry or on the phone. Sometimes I do a wedding ring check too – people that are married are more likely to have kids themselves and understand the struggle.
People are inherently good. Let them be good to you.
Less Toys More Snacks
While it can be tempting to pack the diaper bag to the brim with toys and ten extra outfits. Trust me on this… don’t. Not only will it break your back carrying around that much, it will make it extremely difficult to dig through your diaper bag for the things you actually need, especially in cramped airline seating.
Bring what you normally keep in a well stocked diaper bag. For a flight less than 6 hours- think 4-5 diapers, one-two extra onesies, a couple binkies, and couple of their favorite toys. I promise being in an airport and on an airplane will be far more entertaining than you’d think.
The exception to this rule is food. If your baby is formula fed, bring enough for at least 24 hours. God forbid, the flight gets stuck on the tarmac for hours or your plane gets diverted, you do not want to get stuck without formula. If your baby is old enough to eat solids, load up on the snacks. A hungry baby is a grumpy baby. And in my experience, snacks were much better at keeping my baby quiet and content than toys ever were.
While screens are often something we try to avoid with young babies, desperate times call for desperate measures. In a setting that’s completely foreign to your baby and you’re void of your usual soothing methods, screentime might be the answer.
Personally, when I fly, I rely on the tablet and snacks. Toys are not entertaining enough to distract my very active toddler from the fact that flight attendants are walking up and down the aisle he wants to too. It would be a tantrum the entire flight without Disney+ or Cocomelon from Netflix.
Be sure any videos or movies you want are completely downloaded on the tablet. You can check this by putting your tablet on airplane mode and then making sure the video still plays all the way through without issues. If you truly don’t want your children watching TV, consider uploading family videos to your phone or tablet device. Watching old family memories is often just as entertaining as any movie is to a toddler.
Consider Signing Up for TSA PreCheck or Clear
Clear and TSA Precheck are two different programs that make going through security faster and easier. Clear allows you to skip the line where a TSA agent looks at your ID. And TSA PreCheck allows you to go through security without taking off shoes, jackets, or taking any liquids or electronics out of your bags. Kids are free and also get the simplified security screening at the airport. The best part is that the security line is always extremely minimal, so no stressing about how busy the lines will be or keeping kids happy while you wait.
In the end, remember that sometimes it’s just an off day, and no matter how much planning is done, the baby will struggle or something won’t go smoothly. In those moments, try to breathe. Remind yourself that you’re only traveling for a day, and you can do anything for 24 hours.